Thursday, May 19, 2005

A Love Supreme, John Coltrane


I know little about jazz, relative to those things I say I know things about, so caveat lector and all that.
Even allowing for the possibility that I'm influenced by knowing that Coltrane offers it as his gift to God, A Love Supreme is truly spiritual, even mystical. I like the second adjective better, and I mean it in the religious sense of the word: that exploration of the supernatural that doesn't respect "religion" but proposes new and different understandings of God that are, nevertheless, recognizable to the receptive reader or listener. Although much freer in its manner than, say, Kind of Blue (which Coltrane also played on), A Love Supreme is framed by its desire to give thanks to God: to praise. And praise takes many many forms in religion. The famous chanting at the close of "Acknowledgement" is a sort of be-bop-y Gregorian chant; the LONG sustained chord at the end of "Psalm," which closes the album, is akin to the Benediction that closes services, telling us that the service is over and readying us to be sent out into the world. The mystical causes us to ponder ideas in new contexts that we might not otherwise consider; though I'm not a fan of drum solos--I usually just don't get them--Elvin Jones' lengthy solo is an astounding thing in its coherence.
Above all, this is a humble album. Its goal is not to show off chops, though it's full of brilliant, impassioned playing. It does exactly what its composer says he wants it to do: honor God. It points to Him and not to itself, something that very few Christian-music artists can claim about their own work.

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2 comments:

zakalwe said...

Where have you been, sensei? The "marketplace" [lat] has been very dull of late, with inane banter replacing erudite chat. Is the big 1000 coming?

Anyway, this is the 1st jazz album I bought- trying to get into the stuff- and from the perspective of ajazz ignorant and an agnostic, it's still magnificent music. My top tip for you- check out the Twilight Singers' "A love supreme/please stay", which as the name suggests is a coltrane/gaye medley. It's on "She loves you", their recent covers album.

-zakalwe

John B. said...

Zakalawe,
Thanks for the recommendation. And might I suggest Miles Davis' Kind of Blue to you: it's the sort of album you get for the person who says he hates jazz.

As I mentioned in my most recent post, last night I was listening to A Love Supreme during an inky-black drive west of Tulsa and surrounded by thunderstorms. Hard to tell if the music had summoned the storms or vice-versa, but I nevertheless felt adrift in visual and aural electricity.

The "big 1000" IS coming up; I'm just thinking some things through about it and doing some rereading. It'll be coming in a few days.